Friday, June 15, 2012

A Myth about Home Birthing

**Trigger warning  - discussed in this post are topics that may be upsetting or triggery for some people. Miscarriage and Child Loss are discussed**

What with the constant home birth bashing debates that go on, I have recently taken a break from my online world - the rage and stabbiness that I am sometimes pushed to, is not worth my mental health, so a healthy break is needed.

But, in my real life world, even avoiding this topic is not easy.

I came to the conclusion many years ago that all peoples have two exact things in common - an arsehole and an opinion. For many people, one is the cause the other.

What am I saying? I was recently talking to someone about my previous home birth (I will take this chance to say that THEY started this by quoting some 'facts' at me. All I can say is, if you are going to say something - either KNOW what you are talking about, or allow yourself the opportunity to learn something new. Standing there TELLING me that you know better than me about a topic I have studied will be a sure way to get your butt handed to you. And I will take even GREATER pleasure in it if you stubbornly refuse to learn - even when your wife is 'suggesting' you shut up. LMAO!!) who after our 'conversation' resorted to the tired old caption of "People who homebirth only care about the experience, NOT the safety of the baby" - to which his wife even looked horrified at him. I controlled my desire to A) roll my eyes and B) shank him.

But it did lead to this conversation. I thought this was a good time to share it on my blog, while it is still up. I will call him Stu for the purpose of this post.

I looked him dead in the eye and pointed to my stomach.

"Have you ever been pregnant, Stu?"
To which he rolled HIS eyes (made me wish I hadn't held back, haha) and merely huffed.
"Well, you say that if I birth this child at home (I guess he didn't know I was pregnant with the startled look heehee) that I am only in it for the 'experience'. What experience would that be? Can you please enlighten me?"

Again, silence. Then he replied that I and others like me only wanted to show how 'warrior like' we were and that the baby was merely a secondary occurrence.
"Ok. Well, here's MY take of 'The Experience'

I don't 'do' pregnancy well. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. *IF* I do get pregnant, I have an extraordinarily high chance of miscarriage - In 8years, two children and three 'currently successful' pregnancies, I have had about 15 miscarriages. The last was the longest at 9.5 weeks and was only at the beginning of this year.

Once I AM pregnant - from the second that little cell embeds itself, I am sick. Not "Oh morning sickness, I'll just have a bit of dry toast and cuppa tea, bit of a lie down and everything will be hunky dorey" but more of a "OMG!! WHEN WILL THIS END?!?! NINE MONTHS???? KILL ME NOW!!" sort of reaction. From fainting almost daily, to puking constantly - until the back of your throat is raw and you are begging hospitals to drug you for the next nine months. Feeling faint and shaky, muscle cramps and migraines - and knowing that you can't take anything other than mild pain relief. The inability to think straight. The thought of getting out of bed makes you want to cry. And that's just the first few months! Add on to the the terrifying fear of "Will this one be a sticky? Will God bless us with a child at the end of this?"You loathe the very thought of having to exist with this feeling of drained and energyless body for the next however many months.

But you wake up one morning to find you don't feel as bad.... where's the horrible 'morning sickness'? Oh no... you wait to see if you are still pregnant. You know from past experience that peeing on more pregnancy tests won't tell you anything and there's no point in going to get an Ultrasound, what will be will be. You live in terror - terror that you will not be growing a new soul, but in fact waiting for it to pass and quiet fear that you are still pregnant and that this is merely the eye of the storm and the Morning Sickness will return any second to crush you more than before. Do you race around and do everything you haven't been able to do or simply recommence your 'normal' life.

So you  wait... and hope. Sometimes I feel the return of the MS, sometimes I don't.

Then sometimes, for me more times than I want to remember, the soul crushing discovery of waking up in a pool of blood. Or doing something 'normal day to day' and feeling that feeling you get when  you menstruate...

Was it that experience you were talking about?

But if the feeling returns, you quietly praise God and brace yourself for the return of feeling like you have had a huge night out and are now suffering a nice dose of hangover and alcohol poisoning - without the night before.

Adding here that I have a few sensory issues normally - I can't touch certain fabrics or eat certain foods, the feel makes my breath catch and my skin crawl. When I am pregnant, these sensory issues are heightened quite a bit. Things that normally don't worry me, are now added to the 'Can't Touch List'. Folding clothes can be daunting - will I come across something that makes me vomit? Or makes me need a shower to rid my skin of the feeling? Will the kids accidentally brush something against me that makes me cringe and hurt their feelings? sigh

Then, for many women, myself included - pregnancy not only doesn't agree with us physically, but also fucks with us mentally. I find that when I am pregnant, my mental health nosedives. And I mean nosedives like a seagull divebombing a chip floating on the water - only my mental health doesn't have water to slide into, but hard ground that can hurt if I let it slam into me. I can be perfectly fine one minutes and black and sad the very next. (Hence my isolation when pregnant - I prefer to surround myself with positive, happy people during this time) This wasn't caught in my first pregnancy - hospital caseload midwifery, but thank God I had a caring, loving, Watchful midwife for my second! Now I know what to look for - so many other women don't and are left struggling on their own.

Maybe that was the experience you were referring to?

So let's say that I still have a few months left. My body hurts, it's tired and sore and I am OVER taking pills and potions, liquids and rests. My house looks like squatters live in it because I chose to spend my limited energy where I can. My kids are feeling the strain - a lethargic mum can be no fun sometimes. Money has become tight due to Hubby having to take some time off here and there to catch me as I fail and need to retreat to bed or bath. My breasts hurt badly ~ "DON'T touch!" becomes a catchcry in this house to all - hubby, children and cats alike. But I also have to live with the knowledge that even though I am 'punished' with this, the chances are extremely high that they won't work as nature intended and another dream dies. We have to go to the inconvenience and expense of formula. So another decision - do we formula feed from birth, try for a little while, use donated expressed breastmilk? Another heartbreak for me."

Stu interrupts to tell me that IF that were true - A) why stress, FF is just as good as BF and B) that would be regardless of hospital or homebirth.

I explain

"Yes, that second part is true. But with my homebirth support/midwife, I didn't need to explain WHY it was important to me. She just knew that it was, so it was. I was explaining the added stresses I personally have and some other women have too. I am explaining 'The Experience" for you

Moving on from that. Just to remind you that I am still feeling that awful 'morning sickness' only now, I have heartburn and pelvic pain added to it. The baby has now been kicking painfully and rolling about like two mud-wrestlers - a feeling I can't stand. My body is now not only painful and sore, sick and tired, but now I can truly feel the presence of the alien being inside me. I am now fully taken over by it's presence. I can't be more than a few feet from the loo - I need to go all the time, and to add to it, I am thirsty and know that I need to keep my fluids up, to help with the feelings of yuckiness as well as maintaining mine and the baby's health. But I know that every mouthful will need to leave in a a very short while. I lie down, only to feel alien movements. Many women love this time... I hate it. It looks cool, but it hurts and with my sensory issues, makes me extremely uncomfortable and most of the time, it HURTS! I hate being pregnant - have I mentioned this? And what's worse... when people tell me that pregnancy is a beautiful thing.
STFU is all I can hear screaming in my head.

So finally the day comes. The day I have been dreading since that second line appeared nine months ago. The day that has been haunting my sleeping and waking life.
Labour.
That time that nearly every western woman is terrified off, in some way or another.
Water breaks, muscles cramp, pain.
I am terrified. Terrified of the pain, the feelings, the loss of control. I try to control my terror. In the previous nine months, I have tossed up having a Caesarean section to avoid this time, but know, deep down, that it is better for my child, that they will benefit the most from this way of birth....but can I face the pain? Can I cope with the sensations? My heartbeat picks up just thinking about it. I calm myself as best as I can.
Muscles tighten and relax
My head starts to pound
Things feel 'off', sensations make me nauseous
It's too noisy, too bright
It's too quiet, where is everyone?
oh, the pain! I can't DO this!
Someone Help Me!!
Retreat into my mind, try to find that quiet spot.
Screams and tears, moans and sobs. Struggle to catch my breath.
It Hurts! Oh God! It HURTS!
I don't WANT this! Make it stop! STOP!!
More gut wrenching sobs - my throat feels raw, my chest aches
My body feels like it's going to shatter, shatter into a million pieces and dissolve.
Screaming agony and excruciating torture
Tired, so very tired
No more thoughts - just never ending pain and agony and I can't see any end
I'm trapped here, forever, never to escape...
Utter exhaustion

But Push... just push and end it.

I'm going to die. I give in, I give up.

Push once more then I will let myself die.

Emptiness.
My body is empty.
It is over, I am done.
..."

I looked at Stu, his wife was wiping her eyes. I find my hand has crept to cover my unborn child.

"That was it? Was THAT 'The Experience' you were talking about?"

He looked away, unable to meet my eyes. But I find I cannot finish yet, I still had words to say.

"You said, at the beginning of all this, that people who homebirth are only in it for 'The Experience' and that the child is merely a second place prize. I can assure you, Stu, that every single thing I go through to have this child, is FOR this child. Everything I do, I do FOR this child. This child means more to me than anyone or anything on this planet. I would kill for this child. I would die for this child. Millions of dollars are not worth nine months of Hell, culminating in a fight with the Devil. And for me, it doesn't end with the birth - I then have to struggle with PND, inability to breastfeed, I struggle to bond with my babies, so many more things that make this process so incredibly hard, so incredibly heartbreaking.

Yet, everything I go through, everything I suffer, is because I want this child more than anything else I have ever wanted. I want to offer this child the very best start I can. I want to be able to look my child in the face and say with all my heart, that I did everything I could to bring to you safely here. My comfort, my needs, were placed second to yours. My Child, you are so incredibly precious, so incredibly wanted, you are Loved.

So no Stu. People who home birth are NOT just in it for 'The Experience', they are doing what they feel is best for their child, just as every mother does, regardless of her birthing room.

And Stu, I want to end my conversation with you by saying one thing. But it is the most important thing about this whole topic.

When you say that homebirthers feel that the babe is not important, that they are only wanting to have 'An Experience', what I and others like me hear is that you feel that we don't care if our babe lives or dies. You are saying that we don't care for these children. Stillborn or dead, that we don't care. That having "The Experience" is worth more than what we went through to bring them here. That it is more important than having a child to hold and love and watch grow up.
Empty Arms and Broken Hearts, all for 'An Experience'.

...

No mother wants that, Stu. Ever.  I truly believe that we as mothers would trade our own lives for that of our children. I would NEVER wish what you say on any living creature. And my heart breaks to think that anyone truly thinks that. "


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I just wanted to add a little something here.

After I wrote this and before I posted it, a friend sent me a link that had come across her Facebook page. It was about Heartfelt - an organisation of Volunteer Photographers who offer their time and services for those who have suffered the loss of a child.

Taken from their website


Heartfelt is a volunteer organisation of professional photographers from all over Australia dedicated to giving the gift of photographic memories to families that have experienced stillbirths, premature and ill infants and children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units of their local hospitals, as well as children with serious and terminal illnesses. 
Heartfelt is dedicated to providing this gift to families in a caring, compassionate manner.

All services are provided free of charge.

After the birth of both my children, we have asked "please no gifts, but if you so feel, please donate to Bonnie Babes Foundation". They sadly closed their doors last July. But Heartfelt will welcome any donation you feel to give. Take a moment to read their site and maybe find it in your heart to donate to this very worthy cause. I am blessed in that I have never had to call on these services, but I thank God that they are there for those who need them.

The passing of a child is something that a parent never recovers from. Let us never wish this sadness on anyone and pray for those that are living it.

The Link that was on Facebook - I sobbed when I read this, so grab a box of tissues or a roll of TP before you read it. Using Photography To Make A Heartfelt Difference

At the bottom of that post, are links to both Heartfelt and it's American version Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.


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I didn't know how to add this without taking away from either message, I felt that it followed what I was trying to say and at the same time, allowed me to share something I feel strongly about, that we all feel strongly about.  I hope that I have done this in a way that is sensitive and gentle.

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